Here’s a look at what I read this week:
Quincy Carpenter is a successful baking blogger, living in NYC with her lawyer fiance. She is also a “final girl”, someone who survived a deadly event when everyone else perished. As a young college student, Quincy went on a weekend trip to Pine Cottage with five of her friends. A man who had escaped from a nearby hospital attacked her group of friends. Quincy was the only survivor, and has repressed all memory of the event. She has never met the other final girls; Lisa, who survived a sorority shooting, and Sam, who got away from the “Sackman”. Rather than getting to know these other survivors, Quincy pushes forward with her life, determined to put the Pine Cottage murders in her past.
That all changes when Lisa commits suicide and Sam shows up at Quincy’s apartment. Suddenly Quincy is forced to think about what happened to her all those years ago, and memories start coming back to her. She’s not sure what Sam’s motivations are, or if she can be trusted. As she starts remembering more and more about what happened at Pine Cottage, it becomes clear that she is once again in danger and will have to remember everything in order to save herself again.
This was a pretty good thriller, less horror than I thought it would be, although there is some blood and gore when the murders are described so steer clear of this book if that bothers you. Although I got this book from the library, it was a Book of the Month Club pick and I had heard a lot about it on various podcasts. Even though there were only a few key characters, I did not guess the twist in the story or figure out who Quincy needed to fear, which is always good in a thriller. I did find some parts of the story to be pretty unrealistic, to the point that it got in the way of my enjoyment of the book. I also found that I didn’t like Quincy very much, which is apparently important to me in regards to how I feel about the book overall.
Another interesting point that I wanted to mention about this book is that the author uses a pseudonym, Riley Sager, that could be interpreted as either male or female. Since the success of thrillers written by women like Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins, several male authors have been writing under female pen names, in order to boost sales. There has been some criticism about this and questioning whether or not it is necessary. From my point of view, I’d rather know exactly who is writing the book I’m reading. I try to read books written by both men and women, people of color, members of the LGBT community etc. I don’t avoid books written by straight white men, but I find it odd to think that one would hide their identity in order to boost sales. Whatever your opinion on the issue, it certainly makes a good book club discussion.
In the opening scenes of this book Ben Solomon, an elderly Jewish man who survived the concentration camps at Auschwitz during WWII, publicly accuses a prominent and very wealthy businessman, Elliot Rosenburg, of actually being Otto Piatek, a Nazi, referred to as the “Butcher of Zamosc”. Ben and Otto grew up together and loved each other as brothers, however during the war Otto turned on his adoptive family and betrayed them. When the dust settles Ben’s accusation, he starts telling his story to Cat, a corporate lawyer who is reluctant to bring a civil case against Rosenburg, but agrees to hear Ben out as a favor. Soon the story takes two paths, Ben and his family living in Poland before and during the war, as well as the present day mystery of what happened to Otto Piatek.
This was a reread for me, although I didn’t realize it at first. I must have read this when it first came out, and picked it up again at the recommendation of a friend. I realized that I had already read it once I was a few pages in, and I’m usually not a re-reader, but this book grabs you from the very beginning, and I ended up really enjoying the second reading too. The author includes explanations and details about the Holocaust that are heartbreaking, but also really helpful in understanding what it must have been like to live through such terrible events. If you, like me, love historical fiction set during WWII, you’ll love this book. It would also be a great book for someone who doesn’t know a lot about the war or the Holocaust, as so many things are described in detail and in a way that’s easy to understand. I found out after reading this that the author went on to write three more books with the same characters and I am excited to read more about them.
Another WWII historical fiction novel – what can I say, I’m a creature of habit. In this book, we are introduced to the Westerham Family, living outside of London during the war. Lord and Lady Westerham have four daughters, and the story follows each of them, along with men from two other families, from 1939 – 1942. This is really a historical mystery, and certainly a lighter read than Once We Were Brothers. As you read, you see several of the characters working for the British government in secret positions within M15, attempting to break German codes, and flying in the RAF. However, at least one of these characters may be helping the Germans.
I enjoy books set in England, and this was an interesting take on how the people of London and its suburbs coped with the war, the blackouts, and the bombings. The characters were perhaps not as developed as they could have been, but the mystery itself was good.
That’s all for this week – and for a while. I’m taking a break from the blog for a bit, but you can find all of my book reviews on GoodReads. Follow me there – https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/54884882-kim-layman